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Stargazing October 2011

By David Reneke

Your guide to the night sky this month.

We’re into a new month and as we get closer to Christmas more of the better sights start to appear in the early evening skies. The jewel in the Crown at the moment is still the giant planet Jupiter. Overhead for most of the night it’s the favourite of planetariums and astronomy clubs all around the world. Why? Because it’s just so clear and easy to see.

So, grab your telescope, I’ll grab mine and we’ll head outside for a look. It’s that ‘big star’ in the east a few hours after dinner, you can’t miss it! You’ll easily spot the four main moons that circle Jupiter. Even in a small scope you’ll see them as stars close the planet’s disc.

The giant planet will be a big and bright all through the night. Even a small to medium sized telescope should be able to show you some of the details in Jupiter's cloud bands.

Hey, want to see some really cool meteors? The annual ‘Orionids’ meteor shower is making an appearance this month. Unusually high peak meteor rates of 1,000 per hour are expected, so don’t miss it. It all happens after midnight.

These are the remnants of Halley’s Comet that came by in 1986, remember that? We’re passing through what’s left of the comet’s tail.

Venus is distinct and climbs slowly into the western evening twilight sky with Mercury in hot pursuit. In 10x50 binoculars, or in a small scope, Venus is stunning!

I always use binoculars because the image is right side up and in front of you and the large field of view makes it easy to find what you point at as well. They’re so simple to use, the ideal starter instrument to go star spotting with.

Haven’t got a telescope yet? Probably the most important piece of advice I have is the best telescope for you is the one you will use most often. There’s no point in buying a big complicated piece of equipment if you can't be bothered spending time setting it up!

In this case, a smaller more modest setup will mean you can be up and running in minutes.
Enjoy your skies.

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